Local politicians, former players, fellow coaches and his closest friends tried to sum up the man who melded the teaching of college football and life, but even speeches, poetry and music could not explain all the compassion and impact Earl Carey Banks had on those around him.
"He has left a legacy that will endure through eternity," said Dr. Earl S. Richardson, president of Morgan State University.
Yesterday, in the Murphy Fine Arts Auditorium at Morgan State, several hundred mourners remembered Banks in a two-hour memorial service as the coach who led Morgan football into the golden years and turned young men from broken homes into positive contributors to society.
Banks, 69, died Wednesday morning after suffering a fatal heart attack that caused the car he was driving to crash into a barrier at Franklin and North Payson streets.
"Earl Banks was an example that hard work, discipline and education can overcome racism and poverty," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. "He taught all of us a lesson in generosity and civic involvement."
Gov. William Donald Schaefer also spoke. Letters and telegrams were read from Maryland senators and congressmen as well as presidents from Delaware State, Bowie State, Coppin State and Bethune-Cookman lauding the former coach and athletic director.
"He recognized that we were men first, men who just happened to play football," said Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier. "The things that he offered me will continue to be with me the rest of my life. Hopefully, we can all live our lives the way he lived his."
Banks obviously touched a lot of lives. Dr. William Hytche, president of UMES, where Banks was the line coach for 10 years before coming to Morgan, said a number of alumni wanted the memorial services held on the Eastern Shore campus. He called Banks "genuine and sincere." Nathaniel Taylor, a former coach, called Banks a pioneer.
The procession outside of the auditorium, about 300 yards from Hughes Stadium, where the Banks legacy began, stretched across the campus. Even students, some dressed in sweat shirts and jeans, who had not known him stopped in to pay homage to the man commonly referred to around campus as either "Coach" or "Papa Bear."
"Earl Banks was a true friend, a comforting ear," said Ricky Diggs, Morgan's head football coach, and one of 12 speakers yesterday. "I don't know how much effect his death has had on our players, because some of them really didn't know him, but all of them know what he has done here at Morgan. A lot of students are aware of that."
Banks coached at Morgan State from 1960 to 1973. He went 3-3-1 in his first year. The Bears improved to 5-4 in 1961, then took off. In a seven-year period from 1962 to 1968, Morgan went 56-5, had three unbeaten teams and a 31-game winning streak.
A year later, they went 8-0, and won the college division national title by beating West Chester, 14-6, in the Tangerine Bowl. Banks concluded a 14-year career with a 95-30-2 record.
Besides Lanier, a number of former players were in attendance. Most of them, such as Kirk Taylor, Jason Mitchell, Gerald Thomas, Ronald Hicks, Pete Pompey and Bob Wade, sat in the lower left corner of the auditorium near the coffin, which was draped with the American flag.
They all had memories of the championships, the winning streaks, and of Banks, a philosopher, motivator and friend.
"I remember the time he had just 19 beds for the entire football team," said Taylor. "Not 19 rooms, 19 beds. He would give meals to those who didn't have money for food after practice. I remember some guys saying that football season was the only time they ate."
As the Morgan choir sang the Lord's Prayer and Blessed Assurance, a number of people wept. The Rev. Raymond E. Banks Sr., one of Banks' three sons, delivered the eulogy.
Maybe the ultimate tribute came from Richardson, who said Morgan will introduce a resolution to the board of regents that Morgan's Hughes Stadium, which will undergo $6 million in renovations, be renamed Earl Carey Banks Stadium in 1995 when the face-lift is completed.
The resolution drew an ovation. There was even more applause when Schaefer said: "You don't take anything with you when you leave, but he has left us so many memories. The board of regents will approve it. I'm sure of that."
And as the family headed to Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery, where Banks was to be buried, Bishop L. Robinson, secretary for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, was sure of something else:
"Only a few men can give the gift of giving, and Earl Banks gave himself. And with that, he gave a lot of young men hope," said Robinson.